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October 16th, 2018
By Ty Houck, Greenville County
In 1998, when Upstate Forever began working to convert a rail line being abandoned in Greenville County into a trail, the project was initially considered to be a new recreational opportunity.
When the first section between Furman University and Travelers Rest opened with the cutting of a ribbon and the firing of starting gun for the 1st annual GHS Swamp Rabbit 5k in 2009, 3,000 people showed up to celebrate (and take over Hwy 276 because a 10’ wide trail can only handle so many people). This proved the trail was a good idea!
Since 2009, the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit has grown from 5 miles to 22 and is no longer a trail but a network and no longer seen as just for recreation but a vital transportation option.
Like the subway and transit systems around the world, the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail network has adopted the use of colors to designate the different lines. That 5-mile flat strip of asphalt between Furman and Travelers Rest that started it all is now part of the Green Line of the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail network, replete with a dedicated traffic light and numerous businesses that have picked up on the Leporidae lingo.
Over the years, the network has hopped into Greenville and Fountain Inn. In 2018, the Orange Line was born where the Green Line crosses Washington St. Still a “kit” — a baby rabbit — the Orange Line hops to an old cotton warehouse that has been reborn into Hampton Station. As it grows, the Orange Line has its sights on connecting with the communities of Poe Mill, New Washington Heights, North Main, Taylors and Greer.
Current efforts are underway to extend the trail from Cleveland Park to CU-ICAR -- a joint project made possible with funding from the City and County, and which Upstate Forever also served as a catalyst -- convening the necessary partners to advance the project and securing funding to complete an initial trail feasibility study.
With over 500,000 annual users, the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail network is far more than a place for a leafy stroll or a revitalizing pedal. It’s where people change their transportation plans and bike to dinner instead. It’s a place where poets find inspiration, where communities see revitalization, where people without cars can now safely travel.
Ty Houck is the Director of Greenways, Natural and Historic Resources for Greenville County Recreation District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org